Three Games to Watch: Week Seven

For the first time all year, this weekend’s slate of games does not feature a top-25 matchup. That makes Week Seven a perfect time to watch entertaining games, no matter if either team will actually compete for a Playoff berth.

Texas vs. Oklahoma

The Red River Rivalry is one of the greatest experiences in football. Under the backdrop of the Texas State Fair, the two bitter rivals face off at the Cotton Bowl. Texas leads the series 61-45-5, but Oklahoma beat the Longhorns 45-40 in 2016.

Texas comes into the game with momentum from a double overtime win over Kansas State. True freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger appears to have seized the starting job over Shane Buechele. Ehlinger’s legs give him an advantage, as he has rushed for 165 yards in three games. Texas’ strength is in its tough defense, which has only allowed a 25% conversion rate on third downs. The Longhorns also lead the nation with four defensive touchdowns. Safety Deshon Elliott has emerged as the leader of the defense and has intercepted five passes in the last three games. Texas will try to get off to a fast start against Oklahoma to put pressure on the Sooners’ passing game.

Oklahoma heads to Dallas on a disappointing note, having blown a 14-point lead to Iowa State at home. Quarterback Baker Mayfield has not thrown an interception all season, and the running back tandem of Trey Sermon and Abdul Adams has combined for 745 yards in five games. Adams and wide receiver CeeDee Lamb were both hurt in the Iowa State game, and their statuses for this weekend are not known. Unlike Texas’ defense, the Sooners’ defense has struggled. Oklahoma allowed 79 points in their past two games against Baylor and Iowa State, neither of whom are regarded in the top tier of Big 12 offenses. Oklahoma needs this victory to get back on track and compete for a Big 12 title.

Georgia Tech at Miami (FL)

Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense can keep them competitive against almost any team in the ACC. Georgia Tech runs for an average of 268 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets lead the country in time of possession, holding the ball for 36 minutes per game. This ball control allows their defense to stay fresh and keep explosive opposing offenses like Miami’s off the field. The Yellow Jackets have only sacked opposing quarterbacks 10 times in four games, though. Their defense has improved since allowing 42 points to Tennessee in the opener, but the level of competition has also worsened since then.

Mark Richt’s Miami squad with be without star running back Mark Walton, who was lost for the season to a right ankle injury against Florida State last week. Travis Homer will take over for Walton, but his veteran presence will be missed. Miami has been inconsistent at times this season, starting slow against both Florida State and Toledo and faltering late against Duke. Miami’s front seven has recorded 15 sacks in four games, and the Hurricanes’ sacks per game mark ranks fourth in the FBS. Miami will need the defensive line and linebackers to stay disciplined against the triple-option since sacks will be a rarity.

No. 25 Navy at Memphis

Navy is another team that utilizes the triple-option, but only because the service academy’s height and weight requirements limit how large the offensive line can be. Navy is 5-0 on the season and is ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll. The Midshipmen lead the country in rushing yards per game, as they average over 414 yards per contest. Navy also commits very few penalties, having committed just 19 on the season. The defense does not have to be on the field very long because the offense uses up so much of the clock, but it has kept the last four games close after allowing quick drives.

Memphis blew out UConn 70-31 last week. Quarterback Riley Ferguson tossed seven touchdowns even though he sat out the final quarter. His favorite target is Anthony Miller, a former walk-on who has 516 reception yards and seven touchdowns in five games. The Tigers’ offense has been terrific in their four wins, but disappeared in their Week Five loss at UCF. Memphis’ defense has tallied 36 tackles for loss. The front seven will be tested against Navy’s rushing attack and may need more tackles for loss to force Navy into passing situations on long third downs. Otherwise, the Tigers’ defense could be on the field for a long time.

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